August 26, 2014

Browns repeat history from 12 years ago

Jordan CameronI apologize for re-opening up old wounds, but the events of yesterday, along with this week’s upcoming opponent had me thinking back to one day 12 years ago. I remember it all to well….because I was there. 

On November 4, 2001, my life was completely different. The world had been changed forever two months earlier with the tragic events on September 11th. I had just gotten married and was living in Chicago in an apartment in the Lakeview neighborhood. No kids. No dog. Just me and my bride. My father was alive and healthy. LeBron James was a 16-year-old high school phenom, nowhere near becoming a Cavalier. The Indians had just finished up a season where they lost in game five of the ALDS to Seattle. The game is remembered mostly for Robbie Alomar dogging it down the line when hitting into a bases loaded, one-out, double play. Then there were the Browns.

The 2001 season was one that was going to be full of optimism. Team President Carmen Policy pulled off a coup after his first head coach, Chris Palmer, failed miserably. In all fairness to Carmen and his GM Dwight Clark (not that they deserve any sort of pass), Palmer was about their fifth choice. This time around, they were determined to hit a home run. Nobody thought that Butch Davis would leave the power that he had built at the University of Miami. But not many knew the gravity of Butch’s massive ego either. For those who don’t remember how good and talented Davis’s Miami teams were – think Alabama of these past four seasons. At one point, he had Frank Gore, Willis McGahee, and Clinton Portis in the same backfield!

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Cleveland Sports Life Boat – Browns Head Coaches

Browns Coach Life Boat

I am a huge fan of the Ron and Fez show on Sirius XM Satellite radio. They do a bit on the radio called life boat, and I’m borrowing it for Cleveland sports. Here’s how it works. There are four people and only three seats remaining on the life boat. You must work your way through the list of candidates and, unfortunately, someone is designated to try their hand at long-distance swimming.

A couple rules.

1. You MUST pick three people to ride in the boat. “Let them all drown!” isn’t an interesting answer and frankly, you’re not funny. It’s been done, so skip it.

2. Don’t use an overly silly premise for your answer. Life boat is a silly enough premise where you aren’t going to “wow” anyone with your take that you should “keep the fatter guy because at least when we turn to cannibalism, we’ll have someone tasty to eat!”

So, this Cleveland sports life boat is Browns coaches. The candidates are:

Butch Davis, Romeo Crennel, Eric Mangini, Pat Shurmur  [Read more...]

Safe to say Haslam meant what he said regarding changes

Jimmy Haslam seemingly dissatisfied

Some may not like the fact that more change hasn’t occurred with the Browns since Jimmy Haslam took over, but Haslam did say he wasn’t going to change much before the end of the season. There’s obvious value in openness and honesty. When Jimmy Haslam said he wouldn’t make changes until the end of the year, many took a wait-and-see approach. Head coach Pat Shurmur’s continued situational struggles pushed the fan-base – and seemingly the owner – to their limits just to really test the new owner’s mettle. The “gotcha” TV shots of the owner scowling and convulsing in frustration were a strangely welcome sign to fans, but added velocity to the grumbling, fan-perpetuated rumor mill about interim coaches heading into the bye week. And here we are on Monday with the Browns presumably focused on preparing for the 4-5 Cowboys. Ironically enough, as Pat Shurmur remains, the only coaching rumors that are being propogated involve Mike Holmgren taking one last run at coaching with Jerry Jones’ money in his pockets.

Speaking of Holmgren, it is true that Haslam did bring in CEO Joe Banner before the end of the season, but at least on paper Holmgren wasn’t really fired, per se. He’s allegedly aiding in the transition of power between himself and Banner. No, I don’t really believe that either, but all things considered, Jimmy Haslam has mostly tried to keep things as they were for this season since taking ownership of the team. That meant no coaching changes and no changes with the GM. Despite the struggles of the team, I think Haslam’s handled everything pretty well so far in terms of inheriting a “de facto owner’s” regime. [Read more...]

Butch Davis doesn’t think he’s done being a head coach

Everyone in Cleveland remembers the Butch Davis era. It was the last time I was truly excited about a head coaching candidate hire in Berea, I think. And actually the Butch Davis era seemed headed in a decent direction until he and his buddy Pete Garcia pulled power moves that made them be-all end-alls in Berea.

As Davis sits in a cushy consultant role with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, he had a chance to talk to the Associated Press about his career and wanting to get back to coaching, despite having been fired from North Carolina. PFT has the commentary.

Given the way his tenure at North Carolina ended, it seems unlikely that another NCAA program would trust him again. And given that Davis went 24-34 and was fired during his fourth season with the Browns, it seems unlikely that another NFL team would give him a shot as a head coach. So while the Associated Press story paints Davis as a man who burns to be a head coach and deserves the opportunity, that doesn’t seem like an opportunity Davis will get.

Too bad, really. I was excited about Butch Davis for some pretty valid reasons. The guy has shown an ability to coach football. It’s apparently many other phases of management (student athletes, NFL draft) that trip him up the most.

For a fun trip down memory lane, read about Dwight Clark’s resignation that handed football control to Butch Davis and his right-hand man, Pete Garcia. Peter King had the story back in 2002 and the quotes from Butch Davis are pretty funny to read now.

“I was surprised and disappointed to learn he was leaving,” Davis said from the NFL meetings in Houston. “I had a very good and easy work relationship with Dwight. I assumed we would be working together again in the 2002 season.”

POLL: Who are the Best Browns Players Since 1999? Offense

A fun little project we are undertaking here and at Cleveland.com to come up with the best Browns players the team has had since 1999. Today we are doing offense first.

Enjoy this little trip down memory lane!

Quotes: Randy Lerner Talks Cleveland Browns with WTAM’s Mike Trivisonno

Randy Lerner broke his silence today with the biggest radio show in Cleveland, hosted by Mike Trivisonno on WTAM.  Here were some of the more interesting quotes.  I won’t begin to pretend this was a hard-hitting interview with tough, antagonistic questions, but they did delve into many of the topics involved with all the losing in the last decade plus.  We will have a lot more on this interview, but I thought some of the raw quotes were pretty compelling all by themselves.

On the talk that Randy Lerner is an “Absentee landlord” when it comes to the Browns…

“I do care. Of course I care.  I don’t know ways of showing you care are clear to me other than to provide support and show up.  It sickens me when we lose games.  It sickens me when we have a season like we’ve just had.  But, I guess to my mind I also have to balance my responsibility to use some restraint emotionally and support the guys that I work with.  I suppose if I don’t get that balancing act quite right, or the optics quite right I might appear to not care or to be indifferent, but that’d be a shame because that’s not how I feel.”

After joking (or maybe not) about being so frustrated with game outcomes that he might have thrown chairs before, Lerner talked about whether he wants to win even more than the fans do.

“I don’t know that I’d say that.  I would like to say that, but I don’t think it’s appropriate to say that.  I think people are exhausted from losing in this town.  I think as a Browns fan from birth I’m exhausted too.  I think people are irritated.  They have every reason to be.  You know. And it’s on me.  I would like to think we’re moving this thing in the right direction.”

Regarding rumors about Mike Holmgren not being dedicated or “stealing” the Lerner’s money.

“There’s absolutely no truth to that. Nothing could be further from the truth.  Look, in this business it’s unforgiving.  People are going to voice their feelings and they’re going to do it on an unfiltered basis.  I understand that.  It comes with the territory.  But, I can say with total personal clarity that Mike Holmgren is as honorable and committed a football leader as I’ve been around.  I know he wants this team to do well.  I know that he suffers the losses miserably.  The impressions that you’ve outlined are just not accurate.  They’re nowhere near my personal experience with Mike.”

On the biggest critics and his frustration with their criticisms.

“Most of the people who say that or feel that way or air those feelings do so because they care about the Browns. It’s not people necessarily out to get anybody.  It’s people who are passionate about this team.  They feel things, see things or sense things and air them.  I’d rather have that than indifference.”

Let’s say that Mike Holmgren doesn’t get it done, what then?

“I don’t think it’s a “Mike get it done” equation.  You’ve got Tom Heckert in the building.  You certainly have coach Shurmur in the building.  And there’s a lot of other guys.  I would like to think that what we’re trying to do is spread responsibilities across guys with varying degrees of experience and an awful lot of hunger and commitment for the Browns. That’s going to grow and become more intense over time. I think Mike’s role as a mentor is very important almost as much as his role as an architect.”

Expectations when taking team over in 2002.

“I don’t know that I have a great answer for that.  My life at that time was more chaotic certainly.  My learning curve was different than it is now.”

On needing patience for Mike Holmgren and his staff.

“This is not an industry or business where you’re going to get time.  I understand what you’re saying (Triv) and I understand that you’re trying to be sympathetic for what we’re trying to do.  I think there are some basic things that have to get done that this organization is very focused on.  The most fundamental is settle on a quarterback.  Now far be it from me.  I’m not a talent evaluator, to say the least, or anything like one.  At some point as a Browns fan when you look around and see Pittsburgh needing a quarterback and dealing with Kordell Stewart or dealing with Tommy Maddox or whatever… They made a move.  They committed to the move and they’ve succeeded with that move.  And Baltimore with Kyle Boller and that didn’t work out.  And they tried and made a move and got Flacco.  I think one of the things that is crucial right now is to take a significant step forward is to try TRY if you can to get this quarterback situation settled.”

Can that quarterback, from the owner’s perspective, be Colt McCoy?

“(Joking) I suddenly lose the ability to speak when I’m asked that question.”

On longevity in the front office being important to all NFL franchises.

“No question.  And a coach if you can.  That continuity is without question the ultimate sign of strength within this business.  No question.”

On running regimes out of Cleveland every couple of years.

“That goes back to trying to balance the frustration and trying to be  conscious of it while also trying to get the results in the near term so that guys start to get comfortable with who is in the building.  Because you’re not going to get anywhere if you keep turning this thing over.”

On the pressure placed on the owner with the passion of the fans…

“Yeah. I do. I feel that pressure.  I get back to the same feeling that it is pressure but it’s a privilege.  We haven’t been able to deliver.  We live with that in this building every day.  To a certain extent it gives you strength because you’re motivated to turn things around and get it right.  To a certain extent it certainly wears you down.  I’d like to think I’ve got a lot left in the tank so I’m ready to go.”

When things aren’t going well do you walk into Holmgren’s office and do you yell?

“I would say usually the scenario is that he’s already in his office yelling.  And there’s usually things flying around the room…  I view my role and my approach has been to make very clear that there is a mandate in this building.  There is very real urgency about that mandate for all the reasons we’ve discussed.  But I try to balance that with being respectful to a guy that I brought here who’s got many decades of proven experience.  Probably not the greatest answer I’ve ever given, but that’s the balancing act I suppose.”

What do you do if you aren’t getting results from this regime?

“I can’t even get myself to think that way.  I think that we had a very strong draft.  I think while the season’s still raw, the feelings and the frustrations are still raw you have got at some point from a professional perspective, you’ve got to look for strengths.  I’m not saying you take any great comfort.  You’ve got to identify what you think you got done, obviously to help reveal what it is you think you need to get done in the near term.  To continue to get stronger. Again the furthest thing in the world I’d do is walk around saying “let’s focus on our strengths.”  That’s obviously not the case in any way.  But, it is part of the process, I would say, of heading into the offseason, being sober about what you’ve just been through.  But not getting so crazy that you get in the way of your principal objective which is continuity.”

On if it really does “all start at the top” with regard to responsibility when a hiring doesn’t work..

“It’s not my fault in creating some sort of massive penance, but it’s my fault because I have got to be held responsible for those hires.  It’s my job to acknowledge that and deal with that.  But it’s also my job to keep moving forward.  I think one of my responsibilities is to keep that in perspective but yeah, ultimately it is my fault.  You’re going to get a lot of credit for things you have nothing to do with in this business and you’re going to take blame for things you have nothing to do with.  That comes with any position like this in any industry.”

On the upcoming draft with Tom Heckert and how it could turn the Browns around quickly…

“I couldn’t say it better.  That’s my focus right there.”

On terrible towels being so prevalent in Cleveland Browns Stadium…

“Sickening…  Sickening… Sickening…”

For the Browns, Pat Shurmur’s Debut Just the Latest In a Long Line of Rough Starts

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.

The Cleveland Browns, coming off a couple disappointing seasons, make a coaching change. The new coach comes in, the front office is happy, the players are excited about the change, the fans are fired up with all the hope and optimism that this new coaching regime is going to bring.

And then the season starts. And without fail, it starts with a spectacular display of failure. A stagnant offense that seems incapable of converting 3rd downs in the 2nd half when just one measly TD would seemingly put the game away. And then there’s the bizarre/boneheaded play that turns the game in the opponents’ favor, and just like that everything seems exactly the same as it has always been. [Read more...]

NFL Draft Watch: Robert Quinn Video Evidence

Scott linked to a mock draft on Twitter today that had the Browns selecting Marcell Dareus.  We’ve already done that post.  So, I skipped down to another defensive lineman, Robert Quinn and gave him the anecdotal, inconclusive Youtube video treatment.  Without further ado here is a longer clip of Quinn and his North Carolina teammates matching up with Boston College.

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The Truth About Butch

Just when you think its a slow day in Cleveland sports, a not so fond blast from the past resurfaces that makes you laugh and aggravates you all at once.

During a media session in Dallas yesterday, Pittsburgh Offensive Coordinator Bruce Arians let loose with some built up anger and unleashed it on his former boss, Butch Davis. Arians was the Offensive Coordinator for the Browns under Davis during the infamous January 2003 playoff loss to Pittsburgh. Not that I need to remind any of you, but the Browns blew leads of 24-7 in the third and 33-21 with just over 10 minutes left that culminated in a 36-33 loss to the hated rival Steelers.

Talking to Gregg Rosenthal of Pro Football Talk about that fateful day, Arians pulled no punches at who he blames for that colossal, Cleveland-esque collapse. [Read more...]

Coaches Are Made, Not Hired

(Update: The hiring of Pat Shurmur is official)

As the Browns are reportedly on the verge of hiring Pat Shurmur to be their next head coach, most Cleveland fans don’t get it.

The hand-wringing and sniping reminds me of all that TV footage of Jets fans complaining about their team’s draft picks live on TV over the years.  Point being, just because you don’t know anything about Shurmur doesn’t mean that he isn’t the right guy for the job.

“But he doesn’t have a track record that we can look at like Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher!”  Neither did Mike Tomlin or John Harbaugh to name two men who we see a combined four times per year.

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While We’re Waiting…

While We’re Waiting aims to be the round-up of the recent WFNY-esque information for your morning viewing.  Have something you think we should see?  Send it to our tips email in the sidebar.

“If you count only their Monday night games, they’re astonishingly good,” said [Tony] Kornheiser, who will be in the booth for tonight’s game between the 4-9 Browns and 7-5-1 Eagles in Philadelphia. “I believe they could become only the second team ever to win three Monday night games — and not make the playoffs.” Quite an accomplishment, Cleveland. [Plain Dealer]

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The Browns Will Win If…

I thought about changing the title of this column to something snarky like “The Browns Can’t Win Because…”, but that would be a great disservice to you, our faithful readers. You’ve come to expect professionalism, and professionalism you shall get!

The Browns’ season is over relative to the playoffs, and even more than that there is some activity on the lifeboats-deck of the U.S.S. Romeo. But, the Bills are currently wallowing in a 3-game losing streak with some QB questions of their own (Dick Jauron says Edwards is his guy). Will the Browns’ extra-long prep time mean another sighting of the team that dismantled the Giants after the bye-week? Can we hope to not see the prevent defense in the third freaking quarter?? Without further ado…

The Browns Will Win If… [Read more...]

Bitter Towards Butch?

Butch DavisThe Butch Davis era was one that most Browns fans would love to forget.  Sure, he lead the team to a 7-9 record during his first year as the head coach, and then improved that to a 9-7 mark with a spot in the playoffs.  PLAYOFFS!?

We then had our first taste of a quarterback controversy with Timmy Tears and Kelly Holcomb; Holcomb ultimately won the starting gig.  In 2003, that 9-7 record turned into a 5-11 with trouble brewing.  The year 2004 rolled around and Davis signed the “savior” Jeff Garcia, cut our former first overall selection, and threw in the towel after a 3-8 start.  He wound up with a Cleveland career record of 24-35, and left Cleveland with some other formidable memories.

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